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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook (first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael)
“No person can know anyone’s character, even his own, but certainly not that of someone else, and not of any individual, but certainly not of a nation… We must conclude that our knowledge in this regard has nothing to stand on. Only G-d can know such things…” (Orot HaKodesh 3:119)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “Noah and Abraham – Anguish vs. Joy”
The punishment to the human race as a result of Adam’s sin was anguish, as it says, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your anguish and your pregnancy. It will be with anguish that you will give birth to children” (Genesis 3:16). Moreover, G-d told Adam, “The ground will therefore be cursed because of you. You will derive food from it with anguish all the days of your life” (3:17).
When Noah was born, his father “named him Noah [comfort], saying, ‘This one will bring us relief from our work and the anguish of our hands, from the soil that the L-rd has cursed’” (5:29). Rashi comments, “‘He will bring us relief’: He will alleviate our anguish. Until Noah arrived, mankind had no plows, and Noah prepared them. Previously, in the wake of Adam’s curse, when they tried to grow wheat, they reaped thorns and thistles, but in Noah’s day things got easier.”
To be sure, Noah invented the plow, a technological invention that made things easier for farmers, such that the ground began to produce wheat instead of thorns. Yet that technological improvement did not affect the moral or spiritual state of his generation. Quite the contrary, matters deteriorated to an awful low, as it says, “The world was corrupt before G-d, and the land was filled with crime. G-d saw the world, and it was corrupted. All flesh had perverted its way on the earth” (6:11-12).
Noah, as leader of his generation, did not succeed in saving his generation by bringing them to repent. The result that followed was a flood that destroyed “from under the heavens, all flesh having in it a breath of life” (6:17). Noah, himself, became addicted to wine after leaving the ark, as a means of chasing away the anguish: “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank some of the wine, making himself drunk, and uncovered himself in the tent” (9:20).
Only Abraham merited to improve the moral stature of the human race. He became the spiritual and moral leader of his generation and of all the generations to come, until the end of days. As G-d promised, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing…. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (12:2-3).
We must learn from Noah’s failure and from Abraham’s success regarding how to lead. Noah was a man of the soil, and, as noted, he invented the plow, which made tilling the soil easier. He busied himself with the material world, and he wanted life to be “fun” for mankind. He possessed no vision, and as a leader without moral or spiritual vision, he brought his generation to a moral crisis and to unprecedented corruption, which in turn led to the Flood and destruction. He did not succeed in ridding the world of anguish.
By contrast, Abraham was a great educator and a man of faith and morality, who did not wish to take anything away from anyone else, no matter how little: “Abram replied to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand in an oath to G-d Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth! Not a thread nor a shoelace! I will not take anything that is yours!” (14:22-23). Quite the contrary, he was total kindness and truth, as it says, “I know of him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep G-d’s way, doing charity and justice” (18:19). He merited a son and named him Isaac [Yitzchak — “he will laugh”], in accordance with Sarah’s words, “G-d has given me laughter. All who hear about it will laugh for me” (21:6). Rashi comments: “Many barren women became pregnant with her. Many sick people were cured on that day. Many prayers were answered at that time, and there was much laughter in the world.” How fortunate and privileged we are to be following in the path of Abraham.
Write a letter of support to Jonathan Pollard, in jail for 20 years because of his love for the Jewish People and our Land! Address letters to:
Jonathan Pollard # 09185-016
FCI Butner Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC 27509 (USA)
Rabbi Ya’akov Filber – Guest lecturer at Machon Meir
“From a Righteous, Faultless Man to a Man of the Soil”
From Adam’s sin, ten generations went by until Noah was born. At first, Noah was the hope of mankind. His father predicted: “This one will bring us relief from our work and the anguish of our hands, from the soil that the L-rd has cursed” (Genesis 5:29). Noah, in his righteousness, sought to walk with G-d and to find a way of life by which to avoid the shortcomings of his forbears. True be told, in his relationship with G-d, Noah succeeded in rectifying the failure of the generation of Enosh, as it says, “Noah walked with G-d” (6:9). The Torah attests to this, saying, “I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (7:1). As far as himself, Noah rectified the failure of Adam, who according to Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook “was estranged from himself.” Noah therefore set before himself as his main life’s challenge personal perfection, as Ohr HaChaim explains regarding the verse, “These are the accomplishments of Noah: Noah…” (6:9), “Noah’s accomplishments were Noah alone.”
It is true that in his interpersonal relations, Noah avoided the failure of Cain and Abel, who each were jealous of the other. Noah was careful not to disturb or insult his fellow man. Yet neither did he make any special effort to have a positive influence on his fellow man. Noah by himself fulfilled the principle, “Live and let live!” as if to say, “I won’t interfere with your life and don’t you get in my way either.” As Ohr HaChaim explains, “Noah’s chronicles were Noah alone, and none besides him, because he was of no help to his contemporaries.”
Therefore, when G-d informed Noah that a flood was destined to destroy the world, he made no effort to go out among the people of his generation and to try to save them and to turn them back from their evil path to a path of goodess. Rather, he built himself an ark in which to save himself and his family. Noah sought to save himself, but his failure at the end shed light on his beginnings. When a person worries only about himself, in the end, even he himself is harmed.
By such means does Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explain in his work “Meshech Chochmah” the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 36): “Moses was more dear to G-d than Noah. Noah was first called ‘righteous’, and later on ‘a man of the soil’. Moses was first called ‘an Egyptian’, and later on ‘a man of G-d’.” Meshech Chochma explains: “There are two approaches to serving G-d. The first way is that of the person who sets himself apart for serving G-d and solitary reflection. The second is that of the person who involves himself in the needs of the community, neglecting his own needs for their sake, to the point of abandoning his personal lives for them.
“Now according to the way it seems to mortal man, if someone isolates himself and concentrates totally on self-perfection, he will rise higher and higher, whereas if he busies himself with the community’s needs he will fall from his spiritual level, as we learn in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 7:14) regarding Ecclesiastes 7:7, ‘Surely oppression makes a wise man mad’: ‘Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi forgot eighty laws because he occupied himself with communal needs.’
“Yet experience shows differently. Noah, who isolated himself and did not rebuke his generation, ultimately deteriorated spiritually, from being a ‘righteous man’, to one called ‘a man of the soil’. Moses, by contrast, when he started out was called ‘an Egyptian man’ (Exodus 2:19) when he was forced into exile after risking his life for Israel by killing the Egyptian. He, who dedicated his life to leading the Jewish People, was ultimately called ‘the man of G-d’ (Deuteronomy 33:1). He reached the pinnacle of perfection of what a person can achieve.”
Noah is compared to yet another Biblical figure, namely the Prophet Samuel: “Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘Compared to his own generation Noah was righteous, but had he lived in the generation of Samuel he would not have been considered so.’” How did Noah differ from Samuel? Here as well the difference is his effort to save the community. The Midrash relates (Tanchuma): “When G-d told Noah, ‘Make yourself an ark of cypress wood’ (Genesis 6:14), Noah went and planted cedars, harvested and cut them up and made from them an ark. The people of his generation would ask him, ‘What are these cedars for? What is this ark for?’ and Noah would answer, ‘G-d wants to bring a flood to the world, and he told me to make an ark so that I and my family can be spared.’ The people would then laugh at him and make fun of what he had said.”
According to this Midrash, Noah as well informed his contemporaries of the danger awaiting them, yet he sat at home and did not trouble himself to go from city to city and from village to village influencing, persuading and warning them. He did not go forth to the people of his generation. Therefore, even when he came to them and he told them about the flood, they did not relate seriously to his words, but instead mocked them.
By contrast, the Prophet Samuel did not close himself off in his home, waiting for them to come to him. Rather, he would take the trouble to go from city to city, and everywhere he went he would judge Israel in their towns. He did not trouble them to come to him. Thus it says, “Each year he traveled all around Bet-El, Gilgal and Mitzpeh, and judged Israel in all those places” (I Samuel 7:16). Only a leader who goes out to the people can succeed in influencing them.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“The Satan of Divisiveness”
I am the Satan of Divisiveness. Don’t think I look like a repulsive beast. Quite the contrary, I am civilized and polite, intelligent and learned. I persuade groups, by means of ostensibly logical arguments, that it would be good for them to distance themselves from other groups. If we work this way, in a sophisticated manner, we will succeed in shattering the Jewish People into little pieces, and evil will reign.
I do not belittle other satans. For example, three satans, idolatry, sexual sin and bloodshed, joined together and destroyed the Kingdom of Israel and sent them into exile. Yet that exile lasted only seventy years. I give them a passing grade. Yet I, with the help of groundless hatred, caused the destruction that has held its ground now for almost 2000 years.
I do not make light of other satans of our own day either. Quite the contrary, I work in tandem with them, like the satan of destroying education or the satan of destroying modesty. Yet with all due respect, they don’t reach the tips of my shoes.
Recently, however, it has really bothered me how little I have accomplished. Take, for example, the Arlozerov murder of 1933, which caused a terrible outpouring of hatred amongst the pre-State populace, between Left and Right. That was really good work. I therefore anticipated that following the murder of the prime minister, we would be blessed with some sort of civil war, or at least a terrible rift. Yet there was almost nothing.
I also had high hopes pinned on the Altalena — and nothing happened. I blame the Jewish State for this. In the exile the Jewish People were scattered and divided, and this Jewish State of ours is strengthening the bonds. This has me greatly worried.
Or take, for example, the relations between Haredim, secular Jews and the National-Religious. Matters were really hostile. They would hardly talk to one another. Now they are getting closer.
I am therefore turning to you for your help. This is my only hope of shattering the nation. It is our luck that our chief weapon for the exalted goal of divisiveness remains intact, and has even become more sophisticated: lashon hara — evil speech. Even the various types of religious Jews do not consider libeling their fellow, or believing such libel, to be a sin. There, the germs of hatred continue to swarm freely. And now, the various media are very helpful, the newspaper, radio and television. Of course, let us not forget our young friend in the besmirchers’ club — Internet — which is really working wonders.
Yet don’t waste this precious ammunition. Don’t libel people who are popular. No one will believe you, and then you’ll lose your credibility. The best thing is to speak evil of people who are not understood. That offers fruitful vistas of hatred.
Don’t make light of any achievement in this realm. If you succeed in sowing hatred in the heart of one man, there is hope that that hatred will spread throughout all society. The best thing is to focus on impatient extremists, like those who speak freely about civil war. Or, there are the ones whom I really enjoy: they declare their opposition to civil war, to a war between brothers, but — plain and simple — their opponents are not brothers. Brilliant! Follow in their path. Don’t speak out against unity. Quite the contrary, present yourselves as believers in unity, and simultaneously convince others that those whom you hate are exceptions and for the good of unity they should be snubbed and distanced.
Don’t underestimate your opponent. After much toil, I destroyed Gush Katif and expelled 8,000 men, women and children. I thought that finally, there would be a respectable civil war. Yet it was all in vain! Those people and their supporters are really locked in on love, or as they put, “love and faith”.
Indeed, the main problem is people like that Rav Kook. With him and with people like him, unity is literally in their blood. I tear apart and they sew back together. I divide and they bring unity. They have succeeded in rendering what they call “love for one’s fellow Jew” impervious to all attacks, crises and tests. They have developed an entire theory according to which all the different sectors of society are necessary and vital.
Therefore, it is not enough to harm these people by spreading a bad name about them. We have to provoke them until they fight back. The problem with them is that no matter how much you humiliate them and spill their blood, they remain righteous, in fact, they become even more loving.
And don’t forget to pray, “May it be his will that I should merit to make a rift between people, to see only my friends’ shortcomings and not their virtues, and may I be privileged to be amongst the corrupters, and to be saved from the truth.”
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